<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

Minnesota Timberwolves v Orlando Magic

Report: Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio set to return Monday vs. Dallas

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You may well not remember this, but Minnesota started the season 2-2, with those losses being close ones to the Bulls and Grizzlies, and looked like a team showing promise. Then Ricky Rubio went down with an ankle injury Nov. 7 in Orlando (when he stepped on a defender’s foot), and he has been out ever since. It was the first of a string of injuries that hit the already not deep Timberwolves.

Minnesota has gone 6-36 since Rubio went down.

So it is big news for the Timberwolves that Rubio is healthy and will make his return to the lineup on Monday vs. Dallas, something first reported by Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press.

Paired with the return of Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin to the lineup in recent weeks, this should make the Timberwolves less of a pushover.

This should mean less of rookie Zach LaVine as a point guard and playmaker, which is a very good thing as he is not good at it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pumped he’s in the All-Star Dunk Contest, he’s great at that, but his basketball decision making skills and shooting need a lot of work. He was asked to do things he was just not capable of in the absence of Rubio.

Derrick Rose half-court alley-oop to Jimmy Butler (VIDEO)

Jimmy Butler, Alex Len
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The Bulls are struggling, having now dropped two in a row and six of 10 after falling to the Suns on Friday night in Phoenix. The Bulls have depth issues, miss Mike Dunleavy more than you would expect, and still have not found their defensive identity.

But they still have some highlight plays — like this halfcourt alley-oop from Derrick Rose to Jimmy Butler.

Glad to see Butler get voted into the All-Star team, he has developed into a fantastic player and this is well deserved.

Last summer Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant talked, decided it wouldn’t work together

New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers
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During the courtship of Carmelo Anthony this summer, a race always led by the New York Knicks for 124 million reasons, there was a moment where the Lakers seemed to get serious consideration from Anthony.

He met with the team and got a Hollywood proposal, one where not only GM Mitch Kupchak was involved but also owner Jeanie Buss, and by all accounts the pitch caught his eye. The Laker brand and being in Los Angeles had appeal.

But Anthony didn’t linger on the Lakers too long and moved on. Why? Well, he and Kobe Bryant talked and decided they may not work well together. Which was the right call. With the Lakers coming to New York Sunday, Marc Berman of the New York Post got Anthony to talk about the Lakers recruitment.

“They came in at the 25th hour, they swooped in there,’’ said Anthony, who owns an apartment in Los Angeles. “It was a great visit. The conversations I had with Kobe was just man to man. We both had to come to reality and say, ‘Is this what we really want?’ And it didn’t happen.

“We’ve been talking for a long time, man, especially this summer, just me and him communicating, and talking and being honest with one another as friends and brothers should be. It was a lot going on there on his behalf and my behalf trying to figure everything out.’’

Carmelo and Kobe together are a bad combination, at least at this stage of their careers. They are two guys who can certainly still score, but both tend to be ball stoppers (particularly Anthony, Kobe will pass once he trusts his teammates) and that makes them defendable. There would not have been enough shooting and defense around them on that Lakers roster to balance it out.

In a loaded Western Conference that team still probably misses the playoffs — those Lakers are not better than the Suns, not a 48 win team or more, which is what it will take to make the playoffs out West.

Anthony chose wisely.

Another top Western Conference team, another Hawks win

Portland Trail Blazers v Atlanta Hawks
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During their now 18-game winning streak the Atlanta Hawks have beaten the Clippers, Grizzlies, Bulls, Thunder and now the Trail Blazers twice. That’s twice because Atlanta won a tightly contested game 105-99 over Portland on Friday night at home. It was a classic Hawks win where defense and balanced scoring won the day.

Portland came out hot, shooting 71 percent overall for the first quarter, and while they cooled down some they still shot 53 percent from three in the first half. Yet the Blazers turned it over 13 times in the half so come break they were up only 1, 51-50. Portland played better defense in the third quarter but their stars went cold from three, so the Portland lead grew but just to five points after three quarters.

In the fourth the Hawks got hot, opening the quarter on a 12-2 run to take the lead. The Hawks did it with balance — Mike Scott had eight points in the fourth, for example. Six Hawks scored in double figures led by Paul Millsap with 21, and Atlanta got fantastic play out of Kent Bazemore, who had to step in when Thabo Sefolosha left in the first quarter with a calf injury.

Where the Hawks had balance, the Blazers had stars. LaMarcus Aldridge had 37 and was Portland’s best player. Some of us expected an angry Damian Lillard — steaming about being left off the All-Star team — to come out hot but instead he struggled to deal with the Hawks aggressive doubling of him. Thing is nobody else made the Hawks pay. The guard trio of Portland of Lillard, Wes Matthews and Nicolas Batum combined to shoot 9-of-42 on the night, including missed good-look threes down the stretch.

Chalk another one up for the Hawks. The streak is likely to reach 20 before some real tests next week in Golden State and Memphis.

Tim Duncan files $1 million lawsuit against financial advisor

2014 NBA Finals - Game Four
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One of the challenges for professional athletes — no matter how educated and regardless of sport — is there are people looking to prey on them financially.

Even Tim Duncan. At least from his perspective. Duncan filed a $1 million lawsuit against a former financial advisor on Friday, reports the Associated Press.

Spurs star Tim Duncan has filed a lawsuit contending that a series of investments enriched his financial adviser but were losing propositions for the NBA star, including $7.5 million in an entertainment company run by the adviser.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in San Antonio, seeks more than $1 million in damages against Charles Banks of Atlanta. It claims Banks secretly withheld 20 percent of the return on Duncan’s loan to Gameday Entertainment, for which Banks serves as chairman.

The lawsuit also alleges Banks forged Duncan’s signatures on documents.

The AP tried to reach Banks for comment but could not.

Duncan is no dummy, he discovered the discrepancy while making other financial filings, according to the report.

Whatever the reality of this case, it is just another cautionary tale — pro athletes need to have checks and balances. They can’t trust anyone, even family, completely.